Thursday, December 25, 2008

RTR's 2008 Holiday Brag Letter

Dear Friends,

This is my first-ever holiday brag letter, which is an art form that I’ve never attempted. Over the years, certain friends have lightened up my holiday season with one, two, or three-page letters tucked in with the Christmas cards. The best ones – written on lonely winter nights with a couple of glasses of wine – scream TMI! Unfortunately for you, I’m only sipping a Diet Pepsi Max.

I characterize 2008 as time spent going back to the future. My 84-year-old father – Mr. Perfect, Sr. (photo below) – is now living comfortably in an independent living complex after finally leaving my boyhood home on the eastside of Saginaw (MI). Our family cleaned and closed the house, having moved everything out – including all the good memories of growing up in the dead end enclave that was Bagley Street. I couldn’t help looking back and visualizing those street baseball games, the dusty basketball games in driveway (the garage overhang was inbounds) and tackle football in the grass. Through all the chestnut fights in the fall and snowball fights in the winter, none of us – from the Rico, Simerson, Stellard, or Cook families – ever got a single eye poked out. The most serious danger back then was Mrs. Beach’s willow switch if she caught you in her cherry tree or rhubarb patch.

Coincidentally, my 30th high school class reunion – the Arthur Hill High School Class of 1978 (photo above) – was held over the summer, bringing back more good memories. The organizers (Mary and Mary, et al.) asked me to be a speaker at the reunion, which gave me the opportunity to ask my classmates, straight-up, “Who put the nasty in Sag-Nasty?” Also, I dispelled rumors that Ruth and I were showing off at the reunion by wearing fur coats – no, it was simply excess cat hair. In the end, it was great to see my classmates again. Email addresses were exchanged and Facebook and MySpace pages were created for the class. Classmates not familiar with tech stuff were instructed to get help from their kids or grandkids.

Speaking of Facebook, season greetings go out to my 323 FB friends! The Argonaut and Boy Thunder question some of these friendships. Yet, in one instance, they weren’t among the 18 FB friends gathered for dinner at the New Aladdin’s restaurant in October (photo above). The dinner company was an interesting mixture of activists from the Peace Education Center, Chicanos y Latinos Unidos, MEXA, and special guests from the touring Wheels of Justice. Friends all. All real.

One friend, Efren Paredes, remains locked up in a Michigan prison. At age 16, he was unjustly convicted of a crime he did not commit. That was 19 years ago. I testified on Efren’s behalf before the Michigan Parole Board, which will make a recommendation to the Governor regarding the commutation of the sentences. Like hundreds of supporters around the world, I personally will not rest until Efren is released. If justice is served, Efren will join us next year in person at New Aladdin’s.

For the second summer in a row, the boat sat in a pole barn in Fowlerville while Ruth and I worked together on various peace actions and activities. Ruth, in some cases, was like a favorite cat toy that I dragged around to different events. She is good sport, a great organizer, and a wonderful partner in all the craziness – please, thanks, you’re welcome Ruth! Be forewarned, I’m determined to get that boat out on the water next year.

Peace was elusive once again this year. Yet, the peace movement played a key role in convincing over 70% of the country the occupation in Iraq must end; it also was on the leading edge of the sentiment that swept Barack Obama into the White House. In concentrating on peace issues during the year, I did not get directly involved in any political campaigns. Yes, I was happy when Obama won the presidency and celebrated with the energized progressive community. Today I can tell you that come January 20, 2009, I will have the audacity of hope for peace and I can assure you that war escalation in Afghanistan or elsewhere next year will be answered by the American peace movement, regardless of who is in the White House. I hope it doesn’t come to that; I’d rather spend the time on my boat.

I must give a shout out to all my peacenik friends: the progressives, RadLibs, anarchists, democrats, social reformers, environmentalists, bloggers, community organizers, nonconformists, and other general hell raisers. I don’t have to name you, I’m sure the FBI, NSA, DOD, and CIA all have our names. Our names they may possess, but – as these agencies already know – fearlessly we will not concede our civil liberties, rights, or demands for peace. What part of freedom don’t they understand?

Special thanks go out to the peace and justice organizers at the Peace Education Center, GLNAWI, Michigan Peace Team, Fairness for Efren, Chicanos y Latinos Unidos, MEXA de MSU, NorthStar Center, IWW-GR, PAX Christi Michigan and Mid-Michigan Democracy for America. You are all an inspiration and personal heroes to me.

A BIG woo-woo goes to my crazy neighbors, the Kravitz Patch Sisters and newcomer, Junior Kravitz. Also, I offer a toast to the Orange Cyclones of 2007 – 2008 SHL Ice Hockey Champions – let’s do it again! Greetings go to my reliable spy, The Angie, and to Lois and Luna who moved up and out of blue collar Haslett – RB & I miss you! I have one good Michigan snowball reserved for the Georgia-D, Leslie. And, finally, a long-distance hug goes to my far-flung siblings, who had the rare opportunity to gather in Saginaw earlier this year – and the same to all the nieces and nephews who rarely contact their LLLU.

The next year will be a challenge – in more ways than one – but with family, friends, and community like ours, we can stick together and pull everything in a better, more positive direction.


Rico Thomas Rico

The Orange Cyclones: 2007- 2008 SHL Champions

1 comment:

The Injustice Must End (TIME) Committee said...

Tom, thanks so much for featuring Efrén in your message and helping us keep the injustice surrounding his wrongful incarceration in the public eye. We appreciate your continued friendship and support. The following is for your readers:

Please download the following sample letters and mail them to the Governor of the State of Michigan to support the release of Efrén Paredes, Jr.:

People can also contact the Governor electronically to express their support for Efrén's release by visiting the following blog post:

You are encouraged to visit and to learn more about Efrén's case and our campaign to free him.

The Injustice Must End (TIME) Committee
E-mail: info (at)

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